After years of defiantly championing the controversial ‘Nordic model’ for criminalizing sex work, controversial Greens candidate Kathleen Maltzahn has performed a spectacular backflip ahead of this year’s state election, now saying she wouldn’t vote for it if given the chance.
The ‘Nordic Model’?
The Nordic Model is a form of sex work legislation based on similar laws in Sweden, Norway and Iceland. The basic idea is to criminalize the clients of sex workers, rather than the selling of sex. While on the surface this may sound like a progressive idea — shifting the blame and stigma away from sex workers and onto clients — the model has had dire consequences for sex workers trying to work and live in these countries.
While many proponents of the model say that it has been “an effective tool against human trafficking”, the official data is vague at best. What is clear though, is that those who created the law weren’t overly concerned about the impact it would have on sex workers.
Ann Martin, Sweden’s Trafficking Unit Head, once defended the legislation by saying that “of course the law has negative consequences for women in prostitution [sic], but that’s also some of the effect we want to achieve with the law”.
Who Is Kathleen Maltzahn?
Kathleen Maltzahn is an author and campaigner against prostitution and trafficking. She has also been the Greens candidate for the winnable state seat of Richmond for the last three elections — including the upcoming election in November. But every time she’s run, she has been dogged by controversy because of her support for the Nordic model, which is at odds with party policy.
That pressure on Maltzahn increased on Monday when the Victorian Liberal State Council passed a motion to support the implementation of the Nordic Model into law if the party wins in November.
Since then, Maltzahn has faced questions from sex workers, sex worker rights advocates, Greens voters and prominent activists Van Badham and Nic Holas as to whether she would “vote with her conscience” in favor of the Nordic Model, as she had previously stated she would.
Now, in a statement to Junkee, Maltzahn has confirmed she will toe the party line and abandon her long-held position: “If I am elected to state parliament. I won’t be voting for the Nordic model, including if the Liberal Party introduces it. Their agenda is anti-women and I have spent my career fighting for women’s rights,” Maltzahn said.
This represents a spectacular backflip for Maltzahn, who is the founder of Melbourne organisation Project Respect, which advocates to the state and federal government for the establishment of the Nordic or ‘Swedish model’ of sex work criminalisation, in the form of an “Australian Sex Buyers’ law”.
I never felt more satisfied or optimistic than when I rode the river in my youth.